Umoja brown bag addresses race in America

Melanie Calimlim, Staff member

In honor of Black History Month, African-American students addressed issues they face in a predominantly white school and culture during a Diablo Valley College “Umoja Brown Bag Workshop” on race in America on Feb. 19.

There are stigmas attached to all races. African-Americans are not excluded from societal biases. Students spoke on how the media plays a huge role in promoting stereotypes.

Biology major Claunesha Williams, 18, said the media intentionally dismisses the good actions of African-Americans, which leaves them having to prove to others that they are not the way the media negatively depicts them to be.

Mechanical technology major Kendahl Gardner, 23, also touched on how media can be stereotypical about the African-American community.

“I see it as a false representation of Blacks, that we are loud, ignorant, thuggish,” Gardner said. “I must not only be myself; I have to prove that I am not what the media says I am.”

Williams and Gardner are both members of Umoja, a program they say has been beneficial to African-American students. According to the Umoja website, the Umoja community seeks to educate the student: their mind, body and spirit. Together, the educators and students create bonds and commit themselves to the personal growth, academic success and self-actualization.

Williams said she is proud to be a part of the Umoja learning community.

“They’ve opened so many opportunities,” she said. “It’s not even about them caring for me. This is my stability, to keep my eye on the prize.”

Gardner said Umoja has helped him learn who he is as a black man living in America.

“I heard learning community, and I saw support,” he said. “They gave me purpose. I now want to help people like myself to be mentally liberated from generational curses that have been placed upon us.”

DVC student Ashley Caldwell, 19, said she feels like African-Americans are overcoming the boundaries they face.

“This new generation, we’re breaking the stereotypes,” she said. “Even if it isn’t covered in the media, it’s happening.”

Umoja members who spoke on race in America said this program has helped students realize they are not what the media categorizes them to be, as ignorant or uneducated.  

“We are brothers and sisters,” said 21-year-old criminal justice major Breia Moore. “We’re a family. We’re connected.”